Bigger iPhone 6 could push phablet explosion

Matt Hamblen
1 September, 2014
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iPhone-6-apple-rumours-macworld-australia1Big smartphones with screens larger than 5.5in are growing so popular that they will make up nearly a third of the entire smartphone market in 2018, IDC said last week.

Sometimes called ‘phablets,’ these big smartphones are expected to make up 14 percent of the market in all of 2014, IDC said, then reach 32.2 percent in 2018.

The trend toward bigger screens has been under way for two years and even Apple is expected to launch its iPhone 6 on 9 September with a larger screen, reportedly 4.7in, up from the current 4in display in the iPhone 5s. A rumoured second iPhone 6 model could be as large as 5.5in to put it in the phablet category that IDC monitors.

Kantar WorldPanel surveyed 20,000 smartphone customers for their preferences in smartphones in early 2014 and found that screen size was the biggest issue of importance after 4G/LTE capability.

IDC said Apple’s move toward larger smartphones and the pent-up demand for an upsized iPhone gives Apple the “ability to drive replacement cycles in mature markets, despite the slower growth seen in recent quarters.”

Growth in smartphones has been slowing in the US and other developed countries. IDC said the most successful vendors in coming years will keep a presence in developed countries but also invest in sales in less-developed nations.

In fact, IDC described the 2014 growth rate for smartphones in mature markets at just 4.9 percent, well behind the 32.4 percent rate for emerging markets. Overall, IDC said that 1.25 billion smartphones will ship this year, up 23.8 percent from the 1.01 billion shipped in 2013. Of that total, emerging markets will account for 920.8 million smartphones, or 73.5 percent of the total.

Google Android is expected to run on 88.4 percent of all smartphones globally for 2014, partly because more than 150 handset makers produce Android devices.

“The lack of constraints around hardware and software specifications [with Android] has helped bring to market many low-cost products, a lot of which could be considered borderline junk,” said Ryan Reith, an IDC analyst, in a statement. He noted that Google’s recent creation of its Android One concept will set standards for manufacturers to follow, which could change that trend.

In its latest forecast, IDC didn’t publicly break out the forecast share for different operating systems as it did in May.

Earlier in August, IDC said Android phones in the second quarter comprised 84.7 percent of the 301 million smartphones shipped, while Apple’s iPhone made up 11.7 percent and Windows Phone made up 2.5 percent.

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